A Look Ahead at 2018 Safety Trends & Risks for Churches

being there // Brian Gleason on Tuesday January 16, 2018

A lot can happen in a year, that’s for sure. While 2017 proved that things can change in an instant, there are trends and indicators that can prepare us for the most successful year yet. Here, the GuideOne risk management and loss control team forecasts risk management trends for churches in 2018. Let’s move forward together with these safety trends and tips in mind.

Smart technology: Property damage claims related to weather and maintenance issues continue to be among the most common and costly claims we see. Wind, hail and fires are not always preventable, but proper facility maintenance, including regular care of roofs and electrical systems, can minimize many of these losses and claims. Another way to minimize these losses is through timely alerts at the first sign of damage. GuideOne is introducing sensor technology that sends a notification to your smartphone if there is water in your boiler room or if pipes are in danger of freezing. This notification allows for immediate response to broken pipes and other unexpected water flow in order to lessen the damage. GuideOne will be furnishing these wireless sensors to some of our policyholders as part of a pilot program that aims to help you minimize losses so that you can continue your ministry. These sensors connect to the wireless network and alert a selected phone if the temperature is outside of a selected range. The sensor will also send an alert if it gets wet. We typically place these sensors in basements, attics and other utility rooms – areas prone to weather-related damage. Stay tuned for more information on this program.

Church security: These days, it seems hardly a week goes by without news reports of violence at a house of worship. Churches are not immune from acts of violence, which may include robbery, assault, rape, and even attempted murder or murder. Every organization should have a safety ministry that addresses these issues. GuideOne recently hosted a webinar covering best practices in forming a safety ministry. We also offer resources to assist you in making your facility more secure.

Sexual assault and molestation claims: Along with violence, this topic has carried the news headlines for months. While church claims have not been particularly newsworthy, this is an area where claims continue to occur. We encourage you to have a well-thought-out child protection plan. This plan should include background checks for anyone with unsupervised access to minors, policies that require multiple unrelated adults and an appropriate response plan that includes mandatory reporting to authorities should abuse or neglect be suspected.

Transportation: Transporting people from one place to another is important for much of your ministry, but transportation claims can be tragic and overwhelming. We encourage a number of mitigation measures including driver screening, driver training and proper maintenance of vehicles. If you don’t have one already, develop a well-organized policy that includes details like who can drive vehicles on behalf of the church, how to avoid distracted driving and how many hours a driver should be on the road.

Discrimination based on morals or religion: There continues to be tension between a church’s right to make decisions based upon religious principles and other’s views that such decisions can be discriminatory to a segment of the population. Hot topics, including those related to human sexuality and gender assignment, make churches a popular target for discrimination claims. Churches may be wise to consider religious expression insurance coverage and the accompanying risk management materials that GuideOne offers on this topic.

Information security risks: Churches are collecting more information than ever on those in their congregations. Through member databases, electronic liability releases and online giving technology, many churches now hold extremely sensitive financial and personal data that makes them a target for cyber terrorists. Data breaches, whether accidental or intentional, result in both financial and reputational loss. Those you minister to trust you with their personal information. Breaking that trust can be disastrous. We encourage you to keep computers updated, use strong passwords and partner with a vendor that is Payment Card Industry (PCI)-compliant, such as ChurchHub, for your online giving. 

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Brian Gleason

Brian Gleason

Brian Gleason is the Senior Risk Manager for Education at GuideOne Insurance, providing resources and consulting services to GuideOne clients in the education niche. Prior to his career at GuideOne, Brian spent twenty years in risk management for a Christian university in California. Brian has his MBA along with years of experience in insurance, enterprise risk management, occupational health and safety and emergency preparedness and response. 

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